You know that feeling when you step outside in the pouring rain in your favorite leather boots only to be splashed by a speeding car? I swear, if anything makes me furious, it’s that! I just hate getting soaked by puddle water, but even more than that – I hate getting that awful water stain on leather boots.
Because how on Earth is one supposed to get rid of those annoying stains? They look awful. And they make our favorite leather shoes look old, not taken care of, and outdated. I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly how I wish to describe my shoes.
Well, luckily for all of us, this article has all the answers we need. Hooray!
Let’s see how can we easily fix water stains on leather shoes, so we can wear them again, with pride.
Water and leather: What’s their relationship actually like?
Most of us believe that leather is waterproof and that water cannot damage it. However, that’s actually a common misconception.
Real leather is extremely porous, and because of that it is not completely waterproof. Sure, leather shoes can and will keep your feet from getting wet in the rain, but the water will undoubtedly damage the material.
So, it’s better to consider the leather as water-resistant, rather than waterproof. This means that it is able to resist the penetration of water to some extent, but never entirely.
Why does a water stain on leather occur?
The leather-making process is a pretty complex one. It starts with acquiring and preserving the raw material, which then has to be cleaned from dirt, blood, and hair, processed with base chemicals, and split into grains. The final product of this process is leather hides.
Those hides are then taken in for tanning and dying, and the final product is then taken for some finishing touches, where the manufacturers use certain solutions to protect the leather, maximize its performance, or add fun colors and patterns.
The tanning process leaves many essential oils in the finished leather, which make it super supple, yet very durable. However, when that leather gets drenched in water, the moisture draws out those oils and disturbs the dyes that are in the leather.
That’s what causes a water stain on leather. If the stain is not immediately treated and the leather replenished with oils, the overall damage can over time become even more severe.
Will you ever be able to remove a water stain on leather?
Right off the bat – yes. You will most certainly be able to remove any annoying water stains on your favorite leather shoes.
However, bear in mind that you have to be quick to act. The longer you leave the water to marinate on your leather shoes, the more stubborn and challenging it will be to clean the stain.
So, make sure you wipe away the water from your leather shoes the moment you notice they are wet. Use anything you have on hand – a microfiber towel, a paper towel, a napkin, or even your old T-shirt – anything will work! By acting quickly, you’ll ensure the water doesn’t get too absorbed by the leather.
However, if you happen to have a preexisting water stain on leather shoes, don’t worry. All is not lost. At least not for now. We have 6 effective methods you should try if you wish to remove the stain and make your shoes as good as new.
But, before we continue, here’s a quick tip that’s valid for all 6 of those methods. Always make sure your leather shoes are clean before you begin removing water stains. Prepare all the things you need, remove the laces (if there are any), and brush off any excess dirt and debris.
Once that’s done, proceed with one of the methods below.
Method 1: Water and vinegar solution
Vinegar is one of those things that every household has. And the best part about it is that not only is it good to cook with, but also an extremely useful and powerful agent in various projects. Like removing the stubborn water stain on leather shoes.
Mix your white vinegar with some water in a bowl. Dip a clean microfiber cloth in the solution and rub the water stain on your shoes. Keep rubbing until you notice the stain is completely gone. If the stain refuses to budge, add more of the solution. You can even try adding more vinegar to it.
However, bear in mind that you should never use just vinegar. All you have to do is simply dilute with water.
You can also put the water and vinegar mixture into a spray bottle and spray the affected area. Then with a clean and dry microfiber cloth, rub the water stain until it disappears.
When you’re done, leave your shoes to air dry.
Method 2: Alcohol
This method is great for those water stains that are extremely stubborn and persistent. Alcohol is a very powerful agent, and it is also successful in removing other types of stains, like ink or paint.
Take a cotton swap or a cotton pad, dip it in alcohol, and gently rub it over the stain. Make sure you’re not overly aggressive and fast while doing so. Once you feel like you’re done, leave your shoes to air dry or use your hairdryer to speed up the process. Make sure the temperature isn’t too high, though.
If you notice the stain is still there, repeat the process one more time.
Method 3: Warm water and soap
You know what they say: Fight fire with fire. Or in our case, water stain with water. And a little bit of soap.
This third method has been proven to be very effective in removing those not-so-stubborn water stains on leather. All you have to do is mix some lukewarm water with a few drops of mild dishwashing soap and then stir everything until you get a bubbly concoction.
Then, take your trusty clean microfiber cloth, dip it in the soapy solution, and gently rub over the stain. Be patient and don’t rush. Take your time and be thorough with the cleaning process.
Then take another cloth, dip it in clean water, and remove the soapy residue. With a towel, pat the residual moisture from your shoes and let them air dry or dry them with a hairdryer set to a lower temperature.
Method 4: Coconut oil
As we have mentioned above, every leather has oils as a part of its structure. So, when water damage occurs, the natural oil content of the leather gets disrupted. Therefore, it needs to be restored and the leather needs to be properly conditioned.
You can remove the water stain on leather shoes and restore the oil content with some coconut oil. This method is most effective if it’s used as a second step, that is after one of the three ones we have already explained.
Once you test one of the methods above and have your dry leather shoes in front of you, take some coconut oil on a dry cloth and rub in circular motions over your shoes. If the oil is too hard, melt it in your hands, and avoid using any type of heat source.
When your shoes are thoroughly oiled, set them aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then, take a piece of paper towel and remove the excess oil from the surface. And voilà – your shoes are stain-free and perfectly oiled.
Method 5: Mayonnaise
Yes, you’ve read that right! A solution to that water stain on leather is hidden in your fridge.
Mayonnaise is highly effective because it contains vinegar and oil, both of which are good for leather shoes. All you need to do is put a thick layer of mayonnaise on the water stain and let it marinate for an hour or so.
Then, take your clean and dry cloth and rub the stained area using circular motions. Be persistent and thorough, and keep rubbing until you notice the stain is gone. When you feel like it’s enough, take another damp cloth and remove the mayonnaise residue.
After that, all that’s left to do is leave your leather shoes to air dry.
Method 6: Special leather cleaner
And lastly, if you’re not exactly a DIY queen or king, and you like to stick to more professional products, then buying a special leather cleaner is the best way to go.
Make sure you always opt for leather cleaners with pH levels of 5.5 to 6 since those are the most effective ones. Take a clean cloth and pour a couple of drops of that cleaner on it. By using circular motions, rub over the stain either gently or more vigorously – depending on how stubborn the stain actually is.
When you feel like you’re done, remove the cleaner residue with a paper towel and set your leather shoes aside to dry.
You can also invest in professional leather creams and conditioners to take extra good care of your leather footwear.